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Nets crumble in final seconds as Washington defeats Brooklyn, 149-146

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Brooklyn Nets v Washington Wizards Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

What can you say? Not much. How about a string of profanities?

It was the Nets’ most devastating loss of the season as Brooklyn’s favorites crumbled in the final seconds to the Wizards Sunday in our nation’s capital. With the loss, the Nets snap their season-high four-game winning streak and fall to 13-9 on the season while the Wizards improve to 4-12. Here’s your most revealing stat: Brooklyn allowed 48 points in the fourth quarter.

“The defense just wasn’t good enough, and I think everyone realizes,” said a dismayed Steve Nash to reporters. “We obviously had many opportunities to win it down the stretch at the end of the game there but we probably didn’t deserve it with the way we guarded all night. Frustrating night. The level dropped, and we’ve got to pick it up.”

The Nets were up four points with 12.3 remaining. Then complete disaster struck. Bradley Beal hit a long three, followed by Joe Harris making a crucial mistake. He tossed the ball away on an inbound pass, giving Russell Westbrook the chance to hit an even bigger three to give Washington a one-point lead with 4.3 remaining.

“Obviously, Brad hit a tough shot and then just a dumb mistake on my part,” Harris said on his stolen inbound pass. ”I was just trying to get the ball out quick and get it to Kevin. It was one of those things where he was cutting to the rim and I was trying to throw the ball to where I thought he was going to be going. I had a timeout and should've been more cognizant of it and taking care of the ball. Definitely a big mistake on my part, especially down the stretch like that.”

Could it get worse? Oh yeah. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot blew an open layup off a great inbound pass by Irving with 0.7 remaining. And that, sports fans, was that.

Kevin Durant, basketball genius and expert hoops teacher, broke down the final play (linked above) to the ground of reporters.

“Russ was sitting on the top side, and if Kyrie lobbed that up (to Durant) then Bradley Beal was just sitting there waiting. Then they had another guy sitting in the paint.” Durant continued, “I mean, we got a wide-open layup late in the game because everyone was so focused on me right there at the box. Coach drew up a good play and we was able to get someone creeping for a layup. We just didn’t finish.”

Following the tough loss, Irving said the main message in the locker room was to ‘remind Joe Harris and TLC that stuff happens and it is not their fault.’

“Number one - it is just reminding Joe Harris and TLC that stuff happens and it is not their fault,” Irving said following the loss. “That was just a microcosm of what the game was like tonight. We had the lead and were pretty comfortable but down the stretch, we still got to be hungry until it’s zeros on the clock. As you saw, Washington was very desperate and we expected them to play well tonight. Anytime a team goes up against us, we expect them to start hitting things. You got to give respect but at the same time, going against a good Brooklyn Nets team. We just take this one on the chin and keep it moving.”

Kevin Durant provided a similar message to the guys looking to block this one out.

“Enjoy your off day tomorrow. Take your mind off the game and get ready for the next one. We all know what went wrong. And we all know how to win basketball games. This is just one of those ones you’ve gotta get rid of,” said KD.

The Nets did start the game strong, coming out of the gates firing away and hitting all manner of shots, growing a quick 18-point lead but Washington did not go away. The Nets recorded their third 70+ point first half (two of them against the Wizards) of the season but Washington outscored Brooklyn 72-34 in the paint and took advantage of Nets' careless turnovers (17 for the game).

“I think we, in general, gave up too many points in the paint,” Harris said following the loss. “We were kind of letting them get downhill almost at will and they are even drawing fouls or finishing at the rim plus second chance opportunities. Especially a team like this, coming into it, we tried to force them to beat us over the top. We definitely didn't do a good job of it.”

Kevin Durant led the way for Brooklyn, finishing with 37 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes. Durant has scored at least 20 points in all 16 games he’s played in for the Nets this season, extending his franchise and a career-best streak of 20-point games to begin a season.

Harris shot the lights out in Washington D.C., hitting a career-high eight three-pointers made to finish with a career-high 30 points, one rebound, and five assists in 32 minutes. Harris has scored 20+ points in consecutive games and for the sixth time this season. The Nets sharpshooter also made some Nets history by passing D’Angelo Russell (52) for most three-pointers made by a Net in a month.

Jeff Green continued his surprising play, scoring a season-high 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes of play off the bench. Green went 4-of-5 from deep, which matched his season-high. The veteran is also one of three Nets (Harris and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot) to appear in every game for Brooklyn this season.

Kyrie Irving, who turned up the intensity in the fourth, scored 26 points, handed out eight assists, and grabbed four rebounds in 38 minutes of play. The Nets point guard appreciates the team battling every game but mentioned how allowing 48 points in any quarter, can not happen.

“It seems like every game we play we are battling. They scored 48 points in the fourth quarter. I don’t know if we are going to get many wins if we allow 48 points in any quarter,” Irving said following the loss. “It’s a tough night when you are giving up that many points and a tough night if you aren’t particularly doing the little things that can create some separation.

“Down the stretch, we had that game. It should have been ours so we just look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can correct as individuals and as a group, especially on the effort. I couldn’t even guard a stick today. Those guys were going right around me and I was getting frustrated a little bit but they kept attacking and that is what good teams and good scorers do.”

Brooklyn finished the loss shooting 56.8 percent overall and 52.8 percent from behind the arc. Led by Green, the Nets bench finished with 42 points in the loss. The Nets had four players (Harris, Green, Durant, and Irving) finish with 20+ points, marking the first time this season the team reached that mark. The 146 points scored by the Nets was the third-highest for a game that ended in regulation. Twice, including Friday vs. the Thunder, the Nets scored 147.

As for the Wizards, Russell Westbrook had a great game, scoring a game-high 41 points in 35 minutes followed by Bradley Beal, who scored 37 points in 38 minutes in the loss. The Wizards, as a team, shot 51.9 percent overall and 30.8 from deep.

Now, if you dare, if you care, let’s check out some film.

The Film Room

After perhaps one of the group’s best defensive performances of the season, the Brooklyn Nets followed up the Friday showcase against the Oklahoma City Thunder with, well, a stinker. The communication that was on full display to kick-off the weekend was close to non-existent against the Wiz. Plays like the one below were more of the norm on Sunday night.

Washington runs a pindown to get Brad Beal some space from midrange, and the Nets throw three (!?!) defenders his way without the slightest bit of chatter between any of them. Though Reggie Perry does a good job providing Joe Harris with some time to get back into the play by grabbing Beal on the catch, he bites on the Wizard superstar’s pump-fake, giving Mo Wagner a lane for the dunk. There are two ways to guard this action; Perry can rotate back to his original man (Wagner) once Harris is FIRMLY back in the play and ready to contest; OR, the two Nets can exchange matchups with Harris grabbing Wagner on the “peel switch” as the Wizard big rolls. The Nets, of course, do neither, and it’s two points, Washington.

The one-on-one defense wasn’t much better. Here, Kyrie Irving is far too upright in his stance while guarding Bradley Beal. Beal takes note of this and responds by attacking directly off the catch. Irving’s error is only compounded with both of Kevin Durant and Joe Harris rotate over late. Not great.

And based on what we heard from Steve Nash, it appears the coach is in agreement.

“It definitely felt like... it didn’t mean enough to get stops,” Nash said. “Maybe we felt we had it in the bag. Too many times we let them waltz right down the lane to get layups... Our level dropped. We let too many guys get to the rim to the tune of 72 points in the paint. That is, uh, one way to lose a game. For sure.”

Conditioning level of newcomers Iman Shumpert and Norvell Pelle ‘to be determined,’ per Steve Nash.

With a deadline to fill the empty roster stops that came available after the James Harden trade––a deal that sent Rodions Kurucs to Houston, Caris LeVert to Indiana, and Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to Cleveland––Brooklyn was on the clock to bring the roster up to the required 14-player minimum.

So, they did just that this past week, signing free agents Norvell Pelle and Iman Shumpert.

Iman Shumpert’s last NBA game was January 6th, 2020 with the Brooklyn Nets. Norvell Pelle’s most recent bit of NBA action was in Game 2 of the 2020 first-round series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics back on August 19th, 2020 (Pelle played just seven minutes for the Sixers). In short, we have no idea what either guy will look like after a potentially long layoff.

“To be determined,” said Steve Nash about the new duo’s conditioning. “We have to fill the roster spots. We’re not saying these guys are going to come in with unbelievable condition and rhythm and change our group, change our outcome. We have to fill in. We have to identify two guys that we think have value to our group and can help us even if they don’t play.

“We have to hopefully put them in a position where they can get themselves into a game shape and rhythm and see if they can help the team on the floor... We feel comfortable with these two guys joining our team.”

Nash did, however, rave about Shumpert’s personality and what he could add to the locker room as a leadership figure. He also touted his “familiarity” with Brooklyn’s culture.

“His personality will be important for us,” explained Nash. “Someone that’s been there, done that, and has familiarity with a lot of our players and the club. That’s, I think, a nice segway or entry into his arrival. It gives him a leg up and it gives everyone a level of comfort with him. I’m excited for him to join us. It’ll allow us to have another veteran on the roster that will influence the group.”

Pelle, meanwhile, was honored in a different way. The Nets social media team uploaded a very snazzy picture of a first-look at his Brooklyn jersey in those delightful Brooklyn throwback blues. Magnificent.

Neither newcomer saw time in the Sunday night game; Shumpert was inactive due to “not being with the team,” while Pelle received a DNP.

Reggie Perry and Chris Chiozza likely to remain with Brooklyn over G League ‘bubble.’

The Long Island Nets, the Brooklyn Nets G League affiliate, touched down in the Orlando “bubble” this week, preparing for the shortened 15-game regular season that begins February 10. Prior to Sunday’s game, Steve Nash said both of his two-way players (Reggie Perry and Chris Chiozza) are likely to remain with Brooklyn.

“I would guess so,” Nash said re Perry and Chiozza remaining with Brooklyn for the foreseeable future. “It is to be determined but we have been down bodies and then with the trade so I think those guys will probably stick around but I also think it is to be determined.”

Perry played seven minutes against the Wizards, going scoreless while Chiozza didn’t get off the bench.

It is unlikely many two-way players or assignment players, if not any, will be sent down to the G League bubble due to the shortened season and the risk factor due to COVID-19.

Historic bummer

Check out these two tweets from ESPN if you want a better sense of how bad this loss was, historically...

And Nets could make history reports statsmuse ... as both best NBA offense in history and the worst defense.

That’s not a recipe for big-time success.

Or as Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley...

What’s next

The Nets look to keep rolling when the team travels back to the Barclays Center to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, Feb. 2. The game will mark the first time Kenny Atkinson returns to Brooklyn and the game is set to tip-off at 7:30. The game will be broadcasted on TNT.

For a different perspective, check out Bullets Forever, our sister site on SB Nation that covers the Wizards.